How do I give my photos that rich creamy pro look?

Discussion in 'Image Processing' started by Beena22, Jun 1, 2013.

  1. Beena22

    Beena22 Mu-43 Regular

    Dec 11, 2012
    Like the title says - How can I achieve that glossy, creamy, saturated, shiny, Hollywood movie style look to my photos using only Photoshop Elements 6?

    I realise that description is a bit mental but it's the best way I can describe it without using photography terms that I clearly don't understand. I basically want my pictures to look less muted. Not HDR, just really rich looking and interesting.

    I take photos that I think are quite nice but they don't have that punchy wow factor that you see in professional shots.

    Here are a couple of mine that I'm sure in the right hands could look really vibrant but look kind of muted and flat to me.


    Probably not the best examples granted but it gives you an idea. This photograph below for example (not mine) has great colour and depth.


    Anyone have any useful hints and tips for me or could point me in the direction of some tutorials?

    I sometimes get near the result I am looking for, usually in black and white so I'm guessing maybe it's a contrast thing? Here are a couple of mine where I felt reasonably happy with the look of them.

    GF1 with 14-42mm kit lens

    GF1, taken today after feverishly unboxing my new Panasonic 14mm 2.5 pancake
  2. spatulaboy

    spatulaboy I'm not really here Subscribing Member

    Jul 13, 2011
    North Carolina
    I don't do much critique on here but I'll try to help you out. The reason you're not happy with the first two images are because, frankly, they're not very interesting photos. Your focus is off in the first imagel, shutter speed is to slow. Think about what you want your viewers to look at. The pianist's head seems to be the focal point of the picture, yet it's blurry. Perhaps walk around the pianist and have his face in the composition?

    The Cigar image has great pop and clarity. It's focus is spot on, good lighting and contrast. I think the main difference between this one and yours is that the cigar image was staged whereas your seem to be just snapshots of opportunity. When you stage a shot you have much more control over the final image. So don't be discouraged when you feel your pictures don't measure up to others you see. Keep practicing and think about how you want your pictures to look first before you snap it.

    As for the pro creamy look... not sure what that is. lol.
  3. entropicremnants

    entropicremnants Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jul 16, 2012
    John Griggs
    Something I wrote on what I do. Now I use this technique also on my HDR as well to create photorealistic HDR (although you choice of HDR program has a huge effect on that).

    Not sure if what I do will help as my post is Lightroom specific. Perhaps you can "map" my adjustments to your environment, not sure.
  4. GaryAyala

    GaryAyala Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 2, 2011
    Photography is many things, one of which it is a craft. As with many crafts, experience and expertise will enhance the final product.

    The best way is to consistently create Hollywood movie style images is to shoot. Shoot everyday. Process everyday. Read books on photography. Shoot some more. Look at other peoples work, dissect the work, identify those elements which draw you into the image. Emulate those elements in your photography. Take a photo class. Keep shooting. When you think you've shot enough ... shoot again, shoot up, shoot down, shoot left, shoot right, shoot high, shoot low ... shoot and be very critical of your images.

    Photography is also about growth. Personal growth and photographic growth. Nobody is born with an innate ability to shoot Hollywood movie style, it takes a lot of work, a lot of shooting.

    The good thing is the more you shoot the better you will become. The more critical self-critiquing you apply to your images the quicker up the learning curve you'll climb.

    The better you become the greater your consistency, to the point that nearly every time you pick up a camera, you know you can deliver a Hollywood movie style image.

  5. Beena22

    Beena22 Mu-43 Regular

    Dec 11, 2012
    Nailed it! That's exactly the look I was thinking of. Your photos are amazing! Thanks for the link, I'll have a look through and see what I can glean.

    I'm also very aware that my photos aren't very good. I've spent a long time just taking photos without actually thinking about taking photos. I'm going to read up on composition and lighting to try and be better.
  6. entropicremnants

    entropicremnants Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jul 16, 2012
    John Griggs
    I should have mentioned that I like what you took just fine actually. Yes, you can pull some "pop" out of them I suppose -- but one can see your "eye" at work and certainly you have a clue! :thumbup:

    I appreciate your comments on my photos, thanks.

    I'm with Gary on the "continuous improvement" bit. For all of us, our photography can be "improved" -- I think one could make a case for that. In fact I think that's part of the reason that you can just keep going in photography is that there is always something to explore and learn in it.

    Keep going and welcome to the board!
  7. Robert Watcher

    Robert Watcher Mu-43 Top Veteran

    I'm afraid that I'm not in agreement with this observation. In fact I absolutely love the movement and especially the bodies in motion in the background. That gives the image life. When cropped, the focus is on the intriguing blurred legs. I love it. It makes me ask questions about what is going on or where this is. As well, the scenic image can be given some punch that would make it a really nice shot.

    As to the specific question asked by the original poster - the images that you have shown aren't a result of any one step or specific software. All digital images benefit from tonal adjustments using Levels and Curves as well as Sharpening.

    As well, most professional images that you see will have had extensive dodging and burning in different parts of the image. Contrast and Saturation give snap to an image. The key is doing it so that an adjustment is only applied selectively. Any software - including Photoshop Elements 6 would be able to do these things.

    As well there are some plugins and stand alone products that can do the contrast and saturation work for you more effortlessly. They are called Clarity plugins. They give snap to an image.

    Although the efforts don't show as well on a low res web image - - - - I spent a considerable amount of time selectively dodging, burning and playing with tonality and saturation on your 2 images. I did this to give you an idea where you could go with these images - - - or should I say, how I might process them if they were mine.

    It is my taste only and is only to give you ideas so that you can use the controls that you have within Photoshop Elements 6 and see what you can come up with. If you feel limited by your software - why not dump your pics into Pixlr and see what you can accomplish Online and for Free. There are 3 wonderful editors there that I use regularly : Photo editor online - edit image

    Don't get too discouraged. Regardless of our skill level or abilities - all of us will see work that blows us away and that we aspire to. As mentioned above - - - shoot - shoot - shoot. That's the best way to see improvements. But don't trash what you are currently doing so quickly. Learning how to make the best of where you are at with the tools that you currently have, will go a long way to your improvement - because those processing skills that lead to "your interpretation" are as essential to photos that will excite you, as the composition and lighting.


    Attached Files:

  8. Beena22

    Beena22 Mu-43 Regular

    Dec 11, 2012
    That was a fantastic post. Thank you so much for taking the time to respond, I really appreciate it. I also very much appreciate you going to the trouble to show what could be done with my shots. The first image you have done exactly what I would have wanted to do with it had I known what I was doing. That's exactly the kind of look I'm thinking of. I see so many shots that have that kind of rich sheen to them and I want to replicate it. What you have done is show me that it is possible regardless of what my original picture looked like (I understand that you have to have a good base to work with sometimes too).

    You was also right when you said about the motion in the background of the guy on the piano. That is exactly what I was trying to achieve as it was shot during rush hour in St Pancras train station and I wanted to capture everyone bustling by whilst this guy played a beautiful piece of classical music on the piano. He was lost in his own little world and at total odds to the hustle and bustle around him. It probably spoke more to me as I knew the context. The crop really makes the picture....I have so much to learn. That's what makes this hobby so much fun.

    Thanks for all of your comments.
  9. Robert Watcher

    Robert Watcher Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Now there you go. That is "the" story behind the shot. That would be a very challenging story to tell in a photograph. Good stuff.

  10. mh2000

    mh2000 Mu-43 Veteran

    Jul 3, 2010
    I think you need a more focused vision of what you want to do with your photography. Photography as art is not about individual photos, but what you do with your photography. What you posted are just a bunch of different photos IMO.
  11. Robert Watcher

    Robert Watcher Mu-43 Top Veteran

    No no - - - - photography is about the love or desire to take pictures - - - with many it's the avenue to express themselves creatively, others so they have something to do as a hobby for the fun of it, or a few it is strictly a means to make an income. It can be about individual pictures, groups of pictures or a set that tell a story. For that matter - photography isn't always or maybe even often about being art.

    If some people prefer to have focus and limit their shooting to specific criteria - that is their choice and their is nothing wrong with their choice. Others however love to shoot everything that they encounter. Even some who are top professionals in a specific field, and most of the old masters who were enamored by what could be captured with the camera.

    Ability isn't improved by narrowing down options - - - it's improved by shooting and shooting and shooting and through experience, expanding on ones visual awareness and abilities IMO :smile:.

    For inspiration why not check out this well known sports photographer (street, wedding, everything else photographer) : [ame=]Street Photography with Mel DiGiacomo - YouTube[/ame]

  12. Ned

    Ned Mu-43 Legend

    Jul 18, 2010
    Alberta, Canada
    From what I'm hearing here, there are a few factors which could improve where you think you are lacking, mostly based on lighting and lens choice with some improvement that could be done in post, but first and foremost you need proper lighting to get the right punch that you're after.

    Lighting is the main thing that will allow you to adjust the dynamic of the image and create depth. Much of the depth we see in our daily lives is caused by the play of shadows and highlights... in other words, light.

    Perception of depth can also be improved using "bokeh", by reducing your Depth of Field with the right lens selection (wider aperture, longer focal length, etc.). I'm definitely going to mention this because it does play a part, but I also have to add that it's often an overly used crutch and doesn't compare to the richness produced by good lighting. More than anything it sells more expensive lenses and cameras. :) However, it is an important aspect for a photographer to learn and master properly, in order that it doesn't get misused or overused.

    The quality and character of your lens can also affect the contrast, color, and sharpness you capture. This is something which can be improved in post-production, but it is important to start off with good glass and more importantly good lighting. The quality of your lighting will account for more than the quality of your glass. Of course, if you are shooting in ambient lighting then you have less control over your lighting and more control of your glass. Losing control of lighting will increase the need for better glass as well as better DOF control to isolate subjects and add punch or interest to your images, so the right lenses can become much more important to an ambient light shooter.

    After all those foundations are in place, if you're still lacking in punch then the simple way to improve it some in post is to compress your dynamic range, also known as "tonal mapping". If you look at your histogram, an image which is flatter and wasn't captured to its fullest potential will have flat ends at the input and/or output levels of the dynamic range, creating a "washed out" image. If you clip those ends (which have little important data), then you will compress the dynamic range and fill the good color data throughout that entire compressed range. That will improve your tone, color, and contrast. In Photoshop this can be done in the Levels dialogue (CTRL-L or CMD-L). If you go into specific color channels rather than working on the full RGB (CTRL/CMD-1, 2, and 3 to access individual color channels, CTRL/CMD-0 to return to RGB), then you can also even out any color casts, richen the color, cool it down, or whatever. Color casts are really easy to remove this way. Just clip the flat ends off each individual color channel and that will remove most color casts like magic.

    The post-production aspect will mostly clear up deficiencies in your lens, but will not help with deficiencies in your lighting. You can't very well reproduce in software the dynamic play of lights and shadows created by proper lighting. Without going into full-blown image manipulation that is. Basic adjustments will affect the image across the board and will improve things like contrast and color tone, but will not be able to change the play of light in the image which really creates that depth.
  13. Robert Watcher

    Robert Watcher Mu-43 Top Veteran

    I don't want to come across as defending this fellow's photographs - - - - his landscape image has dynamic lighting. The documentary shot of the man at the piano, uses the lighting that is there. Particularly the angle that was used to shoot the people walking by.

    To get the punch he wants on these images - it is accomplished in post processing. I don't think he is photographing commercially for magazines or as fine art for galleries. :smile:

    Maybe I'm reading into the poster's intent wrongly. :frown:

  14. Ned

    Ned Mu-43 Legend

    Jul 18, 2010
    Alberta, Canada
    No, I don't think you're wrong at all about that Robert. I personally don't see anything particularly wrong with his images either. I'm only addressing what he perceives is missing. :)

    Certainly there are many, many times when you are not able to control situations like lighting, but understanding what it takes will allow you to step back and say, "These are great photos for what I was shooting" but with the understanding that "Now if I really wanted to improve it and make it look professionally polished, that would require me to shoot it in a better controlled environment with more controlled setup." Or perhaps change the ambient lighting by shooting at a different time of day (ie, like golden/blue hour) or from a different location (ie, like from an angle where the shadows play in your favor). I'm not saying that this is always or even often an option for the average photographer, but that it's important to understand what can and can't be achieved with different methods, even if those options are not available to you. My standards for what I expect out of a studio photograph are completely different than what I expect out of an event photo for instance. Knowing that difference is important. For instance, if a client asks me to shoot her during an event and wants to use that photo as a main headshot or something to advertise with, then I have the knowledge to tell her, "Yes, that can be done and I can do a sufficient job of it, but if you want something that really stands out and has punch, then it should be taken in the proper environment with the proper lighting." It's all part of knowing your limitations. The OP may not have clients to convince, but he should know the different levels achievable within various setups in order to set his own personal standards and expectations out of them.

    That's why I say to look first at all the foundations in the setup itself, then when you're still finding yourself lacking - that's when you turn to post-production. There is definitely a lot of "punch" that can be returned in post, but it will never look as good if you don't start off with the very best you can before you bring it into post. The whole Garbage in, Garbage out idea.
  15. Serhan

    Serhan Mu-43 Top Veteran

    May 7, 2011
  16. caimi

    caimi Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 13, 2012
    middle US
    When I was a boy my grandma made the best ravioli in the world. I've not had better since. One day I asked her how she made her ravioli. What was her secret.
    She looked me in the eye and said, "Sputo di esso!" and she laughed and laughed.
    Books and lessons are invaluable but to get your own style, you've got to spit on it!
  17. Beena22

    Beena22 Mu-43 Regular

    Dec 11, 2012
    No you're not reading my intent wrongly Robert. I'm not planning on making a career out of photography, I was merely seeing how I could give my own efforts a bit of an edge and make them look a bit more than just a simple point and shoot shot. Particularly when I'm shooting things like the guy on the piano where I don't really have time to consider every little detail. A bit like this shot I decided to take whilst waiting for a tube train. It was a split second decision to shoot it because I wanted to capture a piece of my day. It clearly suffered as a result but could probably be made to look a bit more interesting through post processing. That's the skill I want to learn to augment the other stuff that I also need to get right.


    Some great advice from Ned though on lighting and glass. Definitely some food for thought. Its things like that which I don't necessarily take into account when snapping away and I need to take a step back sometimes and think about what I'm doing. It's obviously the impulsive side of me that just wants to take the picture immediately.
  18. Beena22

    Beena22 Mu-43 Regular

    Dec 11, 2012
    I've had a little play around with curves and contrast etc. today and I'm reasonably pleased with how a couple of shots have come out which makes them a bit more interesting to how they came out of the camera. Thanks again for the advice everyone. I hope I'm heading in the right direction.


  19. arch stanton

    arch stanton Mu-43 Veteran

    Feb 25, 2012
    Just in addition as you're starting to head this way - initially aim to make the histogram representation of your image as wide and fat as possible without clipping off the edges. Assuming your going for a balanced 'punchy' image, black at the left edge and white at the right edge. But you can't always get there without degrading your image by pushing it too far, particularly with jpegs.

    The better your histogram looks in your camera, the easier it'll be to tweak in post to get it looking perfect (which is just the way you want it to look - not what anyone else says!).
    Understanding Digital Camera Histograms: Tones and Contrast

    This guide shows using photoshop to play with the image tones:
    Using the Photoshop Levels Tool

    It'll probably overlap to elements, also look at the curves tool. Personally I found Lightroom much faster for processing lots of photos once you learn the tool - but the basics of improving what came out of the camera are the same in every tool, and the histogram's an excellent guide to help you out.

    FWIW and as Gary said earlier, just shoot, shoot, shoot. The more you play the better you get :)
    Edit - love the sea of grass!
  20. RobWatson

    RobWatson Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Double dose of this between each shot.
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